Workshop “Levels” Explained
All of our ‘ukulele workshops have been assigned “levels” of difficulty to help you decide which workshops are best for you. This, however, is simply a guide to ensure you don’t end up in a workshop that is either too advanced or too easy for you to enjoy. Please keep in mind that the assigned level of any workshop is just a starting point and that the description of the workshop itself might offer a better gauge of whether or not it is the right one for you. As someone who plays at Level 3, you may still have something to learn from a workshop open to students at Level 2. So don’t be too quick to dismiss a workshop simply because it appears to be too easy for you. All of our instructors (and even your fellow students) are full of nuggets of invaluable information and sometimes they “pop out” at the most unexpected times. And don’t forget the most important key to improving your playing: practice what you have been taught.
Everyone who plays the ‘ukulele has something to learn in the workshops designated “All Levels.” It might be because something other than ukulele playing skill is involved (i.e. Song Writing or Hula) or it could be that there are opportunities within the workshop for ukulele playes of all skill levels, such as some of the band classes. In any case, don’t overlook the opportunties for learning and fun and expanding your musical horizons in the workshops labeled “All Levels.”
This is you, if you just got an ‘ukulele and maybe have a few chords under your belt, but still stop in-between chord changes to move your fingers to the next location. Workshops at this level should focus on helping you make those changes through practice and finding ways to finger chords that make the transitions easier. Strumming is generally not the focus, but keep in mind that it is never too early to start thinking about what’s going on with the right hand.
If you know a handful of chords and can move from one chord to another without having to think about it too much, but you still need chord diagrams written out over the words for each song, you’re at Level 2. Among other things, you are ready to start letting go of the paper and listen for the chord changes, insetad of looking for them. Remember, music is an auditory experience. As far as strumming goes, you may have one or two strumming patterns in your repertoire, but that’s about it. So it’s time to start exploring right hand discipline, rhythm, and maybe a little fingerpicking. But mostly, you need to practice.
If you can hold a steady rhythm, are competent with a variety of basic chords such as A, Am, A7, Bb, C, C7, D, D7, Dm, Em, E7, F, F7, G, and G7, can sing and strum at the same time, and learn new chords fairly quickly, this is where you belong. It’s time to start working on making those chord changes a little quicker (practice, practice, practice), start exploring the rest of the fretboard with second and third position chords, and (gulp) start learning to improvise. And whether you like it or not, either on purpose or by accident, you will start picking up a little “music theory” and actually understand it and want to share it with others! If you are performing in any capacity at all, you need to start weening yourself from the music stand and begin looking at and interacting with your audience. This is the big transition period. It’s time to “feel” the music and the lyrics and convey that in your playing.
At this level you can hear I, IV, and V chords and you have mastered some chord inversions. You know there is life above the fifth fret and have been there with barre or 4-fingered closed chords. At this point you are ready to hone your performance chops and add more songs and more complicated drills to your quiver. You should be looking for and finding ways to make everything you play more enjoyable for the person listening, even if that person is you! You should be stretching your skills through improvising and be getting yourself ready to jam not with a songbook in front of you, but with the music in your ear and your heart.
Don’t ever undersestimate the power of simply being there. Regardless of your skill level, perceived or real, there is nothing quite like an immersion experience to focus your attention and improve your playing ability regardless of where you fall in the descriptions above. There is always something to learn, if you just open yourself to the possibility.